Sleep apnea is a disorder of the sleeping process that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. It affects nearly 18 million Americans and has been shown to have serious side effects such as weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and heart arrhythmia. But what causes it in the first place? Is sleep apnea genetic?
This article will talk about these questions and more. We’ll dive into what sleep apnea is, the different types that can affect you, and how it is caused, including its genetic origins. Finally, we’ll also talk briefly about treatment options.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
The word “apnea” means cessation of breathing. Sleep apnea is when normal breathing patterns are interrupted during sleep. It can be due to either an obstruction in the windpipe or a signaling issue from the brain.
Either way, the result is breathing that becomes shallow, light, or even ceases altogether. Consequently, the amount of oxygen in your blood drops rapidly and begins to starve tissues, muscles, and the brain.
Since your body needs a constant supply of oxygen to function properly, it begins to sound the alarm and rouse you out of sleep. You may awaken briefly to toss and turn after an apneic episode, restoring normal breathing. However, this cycle can repeat tens or even hundreds of times a night without you even being aware!
Is Sleep Apnea Genetic?
There is much research and curiosity surrounding the subject of whether sleep apnea is genetic. The answer is that it may indeed be genetic.
Some research shows that Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is more prevalent among certain races and ethnicities. For example, African Americans tend to have a higher risk of OSA, as do Hispanics.
These groups may be genetically more prone to having a smaller airway that narrows during sleep, making breathing more difficult. Facial anatomy in other groups of people may also play a role. This can affect the ease with which the airway can become obstructed. Other genes related to obesity and diabetes can also contribute to OSA, as well as lifestyle factors like smoking and alcohol consumption.
Another kind of sleep apnea is Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). In this case, the brain fails to send proper signals to the body, telling it when and how much to breathe. It is also possible for genetics or environmental factors such as alcohol use or peer pressure to cause this kind of apnea.
Effective Treatments and Solutions
The gold standard of sleep apnea treatment is to use a machine that provides continuous pressure through your airway as you sleep.
CPAP or BiPAP machines are highly effective but may be uncomfortable for some users, with side effects such as eye irritation or aerophagia.
However, modern dentists can also treat sleep apnea using minor surgical procedures or custom-made dental appliances. You wear these as you sleep to help keep your airway open and ensure a comfortable night’s sleep.
Almond Dental is your comprehensive dental care destination. We offer sleep apnea treatment in Minnesota that can eliminate the need to use a CPAP, using comfortable dental and orthodontic devices, as well as surgical options. For more information, call our St. Anthony location at (612) 782-7000 or our Maple Grove location at (763) 762-7177.